(Photo Courtesy of Providence Athletics)
Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.
Head Coach: Bobby Benson (first season, 2022-Present)
Providence 2022 Record: 6-8 (1-4 Big East)
Key Departures: Evan McGreen (M), Mike O’Grady (LSM), Gibson Linnehan (D), Michael Harris (G)
Key Returners: Matt Grillo (A), Ryan Bell (M), Michael Chabra (M), and Chris Cusolito (M)
Transfer Additions: Patrick Yowan (G, Loyola)
Since the Big East added lacrosse, Providence has been a consistent outsider when it comes to postseason play. Only three times (2016, 2017, 2019) have the Friars advanced to the Big East Tournament. During that 2017 run they beat Villanova in the semifinals and came within a goal of knocking off Marquette in the title game.
The recent past has seen the Friars fall short of those successful years in the mid to late 2010s. Despite a strong 5-1 record in the shortened 2020 campaign, Providence went 4-9 in 2021 and 6-8 in 2022. Following this past season, much change took place off the field as Providence brought in Maryland offensive coordinator Bobby Benson to be its next head coach. Hot off helping Maryland to an undefeated national title, Benson is now tasked with trying to steer this Providence program back into the right direction.
As always is the case with a new head coach and staff, there are plenty of questions about what to expect from this Providence squad in 2022. This roster certainly has talent. It is just a matter of seeing how Benson and his staff utilize it and how successful they can be, and how soon that success will be seen.
How Does The Young Talent Progress?
One of the headliners of last season for this Providence program was how much young talent contributed. And nowhere was that seen more than on the offensive end. While Senior Matt Grillo (36G/9A), who will be back for a fifth season, and grad student Evan McGreen (19G/11A) continued to be big contributors and leaders on that end, the midfield group of Ryan Benn, Michael Chabra, and Chris Cusolito made a lot of noise. Attackman Jack Horrigan can also be put into that group of young, talented offensive weapons.
Bell emerged as one of the best feeders from the midfield in college lacrosse, ending his freshman season with 43 points off 34 assists and nine goals. He accounted for 42% of the Friars’ assists last spring. Horrigan also had a standout freshman season, tallying 15 goals and one assists. He played in 13 games with 10 starts at attack. Chabra and Cusolito each had stellar sophomore seasons, putting up 27 and 25 points on the year, respectively. Chabra was a primary starter at the midfield whole Cusolito played in 10 games with four starts late in the season. Beyond the offense, Quinn McConnaughey served as the team’s top faceoff man and Gibson Linnehan was a full-time starter at close defense. Both were freshman. Linnehan is the only one of those aforementioned players who has left the program.
After having so many younger players step up and be main contributors last season, and with many of those players returning, one has to wonder just how much improved that talent will be in 2023. And if they do progress to their maximum potential, will it impact the win/loss column or not?
Who Gets The Starting Goalie Job?
One thing that has Providence has had in recent years is good goalie play. Friar great Tate Boyce graduated and the torch was subsequently passed to Toby Burgford. Both were very solid and reliable. Following his exit of Burgdorf after the 2021 season, Michael Harris proved to be the next man up as he got the starting nod last spring as a senior. He made 138 saves with a 45.4% save percentage while anchoring a Friar defense that was as bad as its been in sometime, ranking 61st nationally and allowing 14.14 goals per game.
With Harris having graduated the starting goalie position will indeed change hands once again. And the answer at the position will come from a fairly small and inexperienced goalie room that sees only one returner from a year ago.
Junior Will Collins is the only returner at the position from a season ago. He saw limited action in three games and made seven saves with a 50% save percentage. Patrick Yowan comes in as a sophomore transfer following a season at Loyola. A Connecticut native, he was rated as a four-star recruit by Inside Lacrosse coming out of high school. The Friars also bring in a freshman at the position in Eddie Perry (IMG Academy, Fla.).
Can The Faceoff Situation Improve?
Last season, Providence ranked 57th in DI in team faceoff win percentage as they went 44.8% at the dot. Leading them at the position were a pair of freshman in Quinn McConnaughey and Richie Hughson. McConnaughey went 90-for-181 (49.7%) at the dot as the Friar’s primary option. Hugson went 49-for-112 (23.8%) as the backup. Tom Fegley also saw a good bit of action, going 40-for-103 (38.8%).
McConnaughey and Fegley are the only two of that trio returning in 2023 and will be the headliners of a faceoff group that also features freshman Justin Bordner (Trinity, Pa.). Whether it is McConnaughey getting the nod as the primary option once again, someone else, or more of a faceoff by committee approach, it is one are in which Providence needs to improve upon the most.
Potential Breakout Player
Brendan Driscoll, Attack, Junior
Limited each of the past two seasons, Driscoll has played in 10 games with three starts as a Friar thus far. Last season he played in five games and started the finale at Villanova. He netted three goals and dished out one assist on the year. With some of the slots needed to be filled, a fully healthy Driscoll could fit right in as a prime playmaker.
According to the Lacrosse Bucket Recruiting Database, Providence brings in a 12-man class with its 2022 recruiting efforts.